News in July 2009
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2009-07-03

General - Global

G8 COMMITS $20 BILLION TO BOOST AGRICULTURE

Leaders from the world's leading economies pledged US$20 billion over the next three years to help farmers in developing countries, particularly in Africa, boost agricultural production as a way of fighting hunger. The G8 leaders, meeting in L'Aquila in Italy, said they wanted to focus less on food aid and more on providing farmers with seeds, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs to help them produce more and better crops.

U.S. President Barack Obama will make US$3.5 billion available to the three-year program. "We do not view this assistance as an end in itself," Obama said. "We believe that the purpose of aid must be to create the conditions where it's no longer needed."

In a joint statement, the G8 leaders said that they "encourage other countries to join in the common effort towards global food security through a coherent approach." The leaders also said that they "support public-private partnerships, with adequate emphasis on the development of infrastructure, aimed at increasing resources for agriculture and improving investment effectiveness."

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) welcomed the initiative as "an encouraging policy shift in favor of the poor and hungry." FAO Director-General Jacques expressed confidence that the G8 heads of state and government would effectively translate that pledge into concrete action.

The joint statement is available at http://www.g8italia2009.it/static/G8_Allegato/LAquila_Joint_Statement_on_Global_Food_Security%5b1%5d,0.pdf

For more information, read http://www.america.gov/st/peacesec-english/2009/July/20090710112456dmslahrellek0.8607294.html and http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/24457/icode/
FAO e-mail conference "Learning from the past: Successes and failures with agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last 20 years"

All the 121 messages from the e-mail conference are now available as a single webpage – at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/C16/allmessages.htm

John Ruane, PhD; Biotech-Admin@fao.org Biotechnology Forum website http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp

Books & Articles

Database of the Safety and Benefits of Biotechnology
http://croplife.intraspin.com/Biotech/

Welcome to the CropLife International database of published papers and reviews demonstrating the benefits and safety implications associated with the use of agricultural biotechnology products. While studies recording, demonstrating and quantifying the benefits of biotechnology exist, they can be difficult to find. The purpose of this database is to enable you to quickly and easily locate and access credible scientific information about the demonstrated benefits of agricultural biotechnology products and the safety implications associated with their use. The database therefore provides access to a selection of quality studies that highlight the global benefits of biotechnology products.

Keyword index
http://ec.europa.eu/research/index/indextc_en.cfm

The Research site keyword index has been updated [http://ec.europa.eu/research/index/indextc_en.cfm]

It now contains nearly 12500 English keywords to help you find what (or who!) you are looking for. It also contains more than 5900 keywords in French over 5300 in German 3200 in Spanish and 300-400 in Italian and Dutch.
Updated: European Guide to Science Journalism Training
http://ec.europa.eu/research/conferences/2007/bcn2007/index_en.htm#training

One of the products associatged with the European Forum on Science Journalism (Barcelona, 3-4 December 2007) was a European Guide to Science Journalism Training, giving, for the first time, a full picture of training opportunities for science journalists across Europe. This guide has now been updated.

GLOBAL WELFARE EFFECTS OF GM SUGAR BEET

The global sugar sector can benefit from genetically modified (GM) sugar beet with significant gains accruing to farmers and consumers, and to a lesser extent, the gene developers and seed suppliers. However, since only the U.S. currently accepts the technology the rest of the global community is unable to benefit from the biotech crop. Koen Dillen and Eric Tollens of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in an article Global Welfare Effects of GM Sugar Beet under Changing EU Sugar Policies published in AgbioForum provide theoretical possibilities if GM sugar beet is allowed for commercialization in the EU.

Dillen and Tollens estimate that the theoretical global value of HT sugar beet for the period 1996-2014 is at €15.4 billion, of which 29% is captured by EU farmers, 31% by farmers and consumers in the rest of the world, and 39% by the seed sector.

Download the full article at http://www.agbioforum.org/v12n1/v12n1a11-dillen.htm
Stories from Stakeholders

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) has released Brief 40 on Communicating Crop Biotechnology: Stories from Stakeholders. It documents how various stakeholders have benefited from science communication efforts and how in turn, they are now part of the process of realizing a collective voice on crop biotechnology. Stories from stakeholders in 14 countries in Africa (Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda) and Asia (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) as well as the global community show that despite the differences in culture, language, and geographical locations, they have similar experiences, face common problems, and share a hope for themselves and their family.

Download the Brief at http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/40/ or download the document by sections (Introduction, Farmers, Media, Decision Makers, Academics & Scientists, Religious Sector, Other Partners, Global Community, Appendix)
Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries 2009 - Monitoring and EvaluationThis book provides an overview of agricultural support in the OECD area, complemented by individual chapters on agricultural policy developments in all OECD countries. Now available from the Online Bookshop.
The Gene Revolution and Global Food Security: Biotechnology Innovation in Latecomers
A new book by - Padmashree Gehl Sampath and Banji Oyeyinka (Hardcover) $85, 288 pages, Palgrave Macmillan (November 10, 2009), ISBN-10: 0230228828

Using the concept of innovation capacity, this book, using recent field data from countries in Asia and Africa, competently demonstrates how biotechnology can contribute to sustainable economic development. The approach articulates the imperative for developing countries to build up specific capabilities backed up by policies and institutions.

Acceptable Genes?: Religious Traditions and Genetically Modified Foods
A New Book by Conrad G. Brunk (Editor), Harold Coward (Editor) (Hardcover) $24.95 272 pages, State University of New York Press (November 5, 2009), ISBN-10: 1438428952

At the supermarket, modern biotechnology has surpassed science fiction with such feats as putting fish genes in tomatoes to create a more cold-resistant crop. While the environmental and health concerns over such genetically modified foods have been the subject of public debate, religious and spiritual viewpoints have been given short shrift. This book seeks to understand the moral and religious attitudes of groups within pluralistic societies whose traditions and beliefs raise for them unique questions about food and dietary practice. What questions are there for kosher Jews, halal Muslims, and vegetarian Hindus about food products containing transgenes from prohibited sources? How do these foods impact the cultural practices and spiritual teachings of indigenous peoples? Concerns from the above traditions as well as Christianity, Buddhism, Chinese religion, and ethical vegetarianism are included. Contributors look at the ethical context of each tradition and also include information from focus groups. This enlightening work concludes with recommendations for the labeling of genetically modified foods.

Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding, The Case of "Nuclear Rice"
Noel Kingsbury, Seed magazine, June 18, 2009 
http://seedmagazine.com.

Noel Kingsbury is a horticulturalist and writer. His latest book, will be published in October by Chicago University Press.

People are simply not objective or "rational" when it comes to what science they believe, as illustrated by the different attitudes to GM in the US and in Europe. It has been the misfortune of GM technology to have arrived at a time when there is such distrust of science and the wholesale privatization of the crop-breeding industry (it used to be largely state-owned in the US, the UK, and many other European countries).

Most of those who oppose GM crops have failed to separate the two sides of the issue: the control of the technology by corporations and the safety/environmental aspects. During the 1980s mega-corporations like Monsanto, with no history of plant breeding, took over the business and promoting of GM crops. But the technology does not have to be controlled by the likes of Monsanto. One of the biggest investors in GM is the Chinese government, and the Dr. Swaminathan Institute in India is an example of a not-for-profit investing in developing "GM crops for poor people."

The fact is that the scientific case against GM is pretty threadbare. It is far more precise and predictable than some of the most important breeding technologies of the last 50 years. If you get hot under the collar about GM, why not the far more frightening "radiation breeding"? Mention that to most anti-GM activists and they look puzzled. Radiation breeding involves zapping seeds or cuttings with radiation, or treating plant material with gene-altering chemicals. Many countries in the 1960s invested in "radiation fields" where trees were grown behind big earthen dykes so that they would be permanently irradiated. The goal: obtaining mutations that might be useful, as one in several tens of thousands was. The first radiation-bred rice was sold as "Nuclear Rice" in Hungary in the mid-1950s. Imagine marketing that today! Radiation breeding is unpredictable, uncertain in its results, and causes widespread genome damage. But no one has ever suggested that it has ever done any harm! Much Italian pasta has been grown with an irradiated durum wheat. Nearly all Asian pears are the offspring of irradiated grafts. And-get this- much European organic beer is brewed from radiation-bred barley! No one complains or protests. Wake up! Be realistic! Why get so excited by GM?

GM crops must be looked at and judged variety by variety. The first generation Roundup varieties are giving way to second generation crops with some highly valuable characteristics, like resistance to pests (thousands of deaths by pesticide poisoning have already been avoided by Chinese and Indian caterpillar-proof cotton) and drought-tolerance. Once we start to see soy with omega-3s or nutrient-enhanced tomatoes, attitudes will surely start to change.

World population is increasing, arable land availability is decreasing, and water resources are shrinking. We need every technology possible to increase yields, reduce toxic pesticide use, improve nutritional value, and feed the world. The European and Indian opposition to GM is rooted in a hopelessly romantic view of farming. Farming is not a romantic business-it is about feeding the human race, and we must listen to the overwhelming consensus of plant science-that GM is safe and desirable.
Igniting Agricultural Innovation
Biotechnology Policy Prescriptions for a New Administration
Full article http://www.scienceprogress.org/2009/07/igniting-agricultural-innovation/

L. Val Giddings, Ph.D, is President, PrometheusAB, Inc. and Bruce M. Chassy, Ph.D., is Professor of Food Microbiology, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois, Urbana.

In summary, biotechnology applied to agriculture has enormous potential to enhance our ability to develop seeds for improved crops and for enhanced livestock to enable us to meet the food, feed and fiber challenges of a growing world and stressed ecosystems in coming years. Significant impediments are created by unwarranted or outdated regulatory burdens that could easily be removed. The resulting, stronger scientific basis for regulatory oversight will increase the efficiency of regulation designed to prevent or manage risks and uncertainties while enabling more rapid development of innovative, safer products. Benefits to human health, the environment, global political stability and national security would follow.
Lessons in Biopolitics
Shane Morris, Nature Biotechnology 27, 602 - 604 (2009)
http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v27/n7/pdf/nbt0709-602.pdf

GM crop biopolitics can be defined as the process of political risk management, whereby policy makers base their decisions-for instance, whether a given crop harbors potential risks for human health or the environment-on more than just the scientific evidence.

Biopolitical impacts on European Union (EU; Brussels) policy and its regulatory instruments are not new. Indeed, it can be argued that the elaboration of GM crop policy within the EU has significantly relied on policy narratives driven by discourses and epistemic communities that deliberately disregard evidence generated by the scientific community. These narratives, which simplify complex situations, are often used by policy makers to guide their decision-making. This decision-making occurs at the science-policy interface where there are undeniable tensions in the relationship between scientific evidence, regulation and political decision-making7. Although no single model for the science-policy interface exists, a few points that scientists should remember include the following:

bulletAvailability of information does not necessarily translate into policy action;
bulletAlthough scientists are familiar with the concepts of technical risk and uncertainty in a complex world, the public and policy makers often seek certainty and deterministic solutions.
bulletIn today's political world, the abundance of unbounded scientific information or data creates at the same time knowledge deficits, as it becomes increasingly difficult to sort and translate the surplus of available science information into politically organized conduct.
bulletThe idea that scientific data are entered into a risk assessment that is free, or nearly free, of policy considerations is considered beyond the realm of possibility . The reality seems that such policy considerations are often biopolitical, and easily based on a fear of negative political fallout or media coverage.
bulletPolitical hazards are a real and tangible concern. At the GM crop science-policy interface, the risks of political fallout are now considered alongside the other risk areas of health, environmental, economic and ethical risk.
The Political Economy of Agricultural Biotechnology Policies
Gregory D. Graff, Gal Hochman and David Zilberman,  AgBioForum, Volume 12, Number 1, Article 4
Full paper at http://www.agbioforum.org/v12n1/v12n1a04-graff.htm

This article develops a political-economy framework to analyze the formation of agricultural biotechnology policies. Going beyond accounts that largely attribute differences between US and European regulatory environments to consumer attitudes, we consider the impact of what amounts to a Schmpeterian process of "creative destruction" across the entire range of relevant economic sectors and interests.

The analysis suggests that in Europe and in some developing countries a "strange bedfellows" constellation of concentrated economic interests (including incumbent agrochemical manufacturers, certain farm groups, and environmental protest activists) act in rational self-interest to negatively characterize GM technology in the public arena and to seek regulations that block or slow its introduction. In contrast, those interests most likely to experience welfare gains from biotechnology are the more diffused and less informed--including consumers and small farmers.
THE SANTANIELLO THEOREM OF IRREVERSIBLE BENEFITS

"Irreversible benefits justify the immediate introduction of transgenic crops, even if future uncertainty about reversible benefits includes negative benefits and traditional cost-benefit analysis, and treating all benefits and costs as reversible would reject the introduction." Justus Wesseler of the Wageningen University, the Netherlands proposes The Santaniello Theorem of Irreversible Benefits in an article published in AgbioForum.

Wesseler names the theorem in honor of Vittorio Santaniello, one of the founding members of The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR). Santiniello was a strong supporter of agricultural biotechnologies and is known for his concern about the social and political issues surrounding the technology. He pointed out that not only should irreversible costs of the GM crop technology be considered, but irreversible benefits as well.

The full article is available at http://www.agbioforum.missouri.edu/v12n1/v12n1a01-wesseler.htm. A special issue of AgbioForum is dedicated to Vittoria Santaniello. Download the articles at http://www.agbioforum.missouri.edu/
ORGANIC FOOD NOT HEALTHIER THAN CONVENTIONAL PRODUCE, STUDY FINDS

The global organic food market was estimated to be worth USD 47 billion in 2007. But an international study, published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found there is no evidence of any difference in nutrition between conventional and organically produced food. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine led by Alan Dangour, made the "most extensive systematic review of the available published literature on nutrient content of organic food ever conducted." They searched online databases, such as PubMed, Web of Science, and CAB Abstracts, for relevant articles published in the last 50 years.

Download the paper at http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.28041v1. For more information, read http://www.lshtm.ac.uk/news/2009/organicfood.html
Biofuels Special - In Vitro Biology

The June 2009 Issue of In Vitro Plant (Volume 45 Number 3) is a Special Issue Publication dedicated to Biofuels.  Fourteen manuscripts are in this issue that comprises 192 pages of information on topics ranging from the economics of ethanol, overview of biodiesel, engineering yeast for production of ethanol and co-products, the DOE interests in biofuels, efforts towards cellulosic ethanol from grass species and very unique perspectives into the biofuel interests in China, India, Brazil and the United States.

The hard copy of this valuable publication will be in the mail to SIVB members and journal subscribers in the next few days.  For those that wish to receive this journal, the best way to do so is by becoming a member of the Society for In Vitro Biology through its website at www.sivb.org

Events

The 2009 Eurobarometer conference “Understanding European Public Opinion” will bring together stakeholders of public opinion research with the aim of discussing how to adapt to the new challenges the European Union is facing. The conference will take place in the premises of the University of Gothenburg.

The Conference conclusions will be drawn by Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the European Commission, Commissioner for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy. More about at http://www.eurobarometer-conference2009.eu/programme.html

EUROPEAN FORUM FOR INDUSTRIAL BIOTECHNOLOGY 2009
SANA Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal, Tuesday 20 - Thursday 22 October, 2009 www.efibforum.com
BioPartnering Europe (BPE) in conjunction with BioPartnering China is organising the 17th Annual BioPartnering Europe 2009 & BPC conference, which will be held the 11-14th October, in London.
CONFERENCE ON SOCIO-ECONOMICS OF GM CROPS

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), in collaboration with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, Washington DC), will conduct a two-day international conference titled, "Measures of Hope and Promises Delivered: An International Conference on Socioeconomic and Environmental Impact Assessment of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops." It will be held on September 29-30, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The conference aims to provide a better understanding of the methodologies, tools, insights, and experiences in examining the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of adopting biotechnology applications, particularly GM crops. It will also examine the factors that encourage or hinder the development and diffusion of new agricultural biotechnologies, and the institutional arrangements and/or policy environment influencing them.

For more information email Roberta Gerpacio at rvg@agri.searca.org or visit http://www.searca.org

RNAi Europe
17-18 September, Berlin, Germany
Agenda now online
Keynote Speakers: George Calin, Jens Kurreck, Andy Miller
Posters: 7 August 2009
Advances in qPCR
17-18 September, Berlin, Germany
Agenda now online
Keynote Speakers: Stephen Bustin, Fred Kramer
Posters: 7 August 2009
Epigenetics World Congress
17-18 September, Berlin, Germany
Agenda now online
Keynote Speaker: Amanda Fisher
Posters: 7 August 2009
Peptides Europe
17-18 September, Berlin, Germany
Agenda now online
Keynote Speakers: Jean Martinez, Matthias P. Mayer
Posters: 7 August 2009
Advances in BioDetection Technologies
9 October, London, England
Agenda now online
Keynote Speaker: William Trogler
Proteomics Europe
5-6 November, Barcelona, Spain
Keynote Speakers
Rob J Beynon, Dolores Cahill
Posters: 25 September 2009

Europe - EU

Sustainable development
http://ec.europa.eu/research/sd/index_en.cfm

Commissioner Potočnik replies to the Manifesto. Last May, the conference “Sustainable development: a challenge for European research” organised by the Research DG took place in Brussels. The conference started with the presentation of a challenging Manifesto elaborated by the Scientific Committee: “Research for Sustainability and the European Union: from wish to will”. EU Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potočnik shares his views on this topic.

Global Pipeline of New GM Crops

The European Union's Joint Research Center (JRC) has released a new report focusing on the "global commercial pipeline of new genetically modified (GM) crops." The publication provides a detailed list of products in the commercial, regulatory and advanced R&D pipelines.

The implications of asynchronous approval of GM crops for international trade are also highlighted in the paper. This asynchronous approval, brought about by the different authorization procedures in different countries, is of growing concern for its potential impact on international trade, especially if countries operate a zero tolerance policy that may result in rejections of imports that contain only traces of such GMOs.

The paper, authored by Alexander J. Stein and Emilio Rodríguez-Cerezo, is available for download at ftp://ftp.jrc.es/pub/EURdoc/report_GMOpipeline_online_preprint.pdf
Study Says EU Policy Makers Can Not Uphold Zero Tolerance Policy Towards Non EU-approved GM-Crops
European Biotechnology News, July 14, 2009 http://www.eurobiotechnews.eu

Results of a brand-new study suggest that the EU will soon have to accept food and feed imports that carry tiny amounts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) not yet approved by the EU authorities. Otherwise prices might rise soon, according to the analysis of the EU's think tank, the Institute of Prospective Research (ISPRA) in Seville, Spain. The asynchronous approval of GM crops, which is caused by national differences in regulation and political approval of GMOs, is at the heart of the problem, say the researchers.

The study backs claims of seed traders organised in the European Feed Manufacturers' Federation (FEFAC) that is lobbying for a 0.9% tolerance threshold for all non EU-approved GMOs that have been safety-checked by authorities in line with the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Codex Alimentarius GM plant guideline.

Experts told EuroBiotechNews that an economic problem for the EU may arise, when it comes to asynchronous approvals of GM soy lines, because the EU is dependent on imports of Argentinia (42% of imports) and Brazil (45% of imports). According to the study, 9 new genetically engineered soy lines can enter the market by 2015, one of them an insect-resistant soybean filed for approval in China.

The Commission has already recognised the problem. Last summer, Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou announced that the Commission will be proposing a threshold that would allow food and feed to enter the EU even if it contains traces of unauthorised genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But up to now nothing has happened.
The battle over genetically modified crops in Europe
Gunjan Sinha, Nature Biotechnology 27, 592 - 594 (2009)

'Several European countries continue to defy EU law and ban genetically modified maize. Will the stalemate ever be resolved?'

The Greens have scored another point. On 5 May, a court in Braunschweig, Germany rejected St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto's attempt to suspend a government ban on its product MON810, a genetically modified maize resistant to the European corn borer. In upholding the ban, the court stated that although the evidence presented did not prove that MON810 posed any health or environmental risks, it did indicate a "possible" risk and this was sufficient to uphold the ban.

Germany's decision to prohibit the planting and selling of MON810 seed a few weeks earlier was the latest chapter in what has become a never-ending soap opera of science versus politics-a drawn-out drama in which the characters attempt to trump one another for reasons that are not always what they seem.

Defying the EU: Although it's been ten years since the European Commission (EC) gave the green light to MON810, which expresses the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene cry1Ab (encoding an insecticidal protein), individual member countries have been able to override the approval by invoking a so-called "safeguard clause." The clause states that if a country has scientifically justifiable reasons to believe that an approved genetically modified organism (GMO) presents a risk to human health or the environment, it may restrict the sale and use of the organism within its borders
Conclusions of the EuroNanoForum 2009
http://ec.europa.eu/research/industrial_technologies/index_en.html

EuroNanoForum 2009 took place on 2-5 June in Prague, as an event of the Czech Presidency. EuroNanoForum 2009 reflected the state of the art in European nanotechnologies and nanosciences. This year's particular focus was on sustainability and environment.

Nanotoxicity project.

How nanoparticle toxicity (i.e. nanotoxicology) affects the health and environment of Europeans is a concern that many researchers are currently investigating. Rising to the challenge is the NHECD ('Nano health-environment commented database') project, funded under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to the tune of EUR 1.45 million. The project partners are seeking to create a critical and commented database on the health, safety and environmental impact of nanoparticles. The project coordinator is Professor Oded Maimon from Tel Aviv University with participants from JRC (Italy), IVAM (Netherlands) and tp21 (Germany).

http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_09_07_03_en.html&item=Infocentre&artid=12033
ERA - European Research Area
http://ec.europa.eu/research/era/index_en.html

Specific initiatives: lists of members
http://ec.europa.eu/research/era/specific-era-initiatives_en.html

Lists of members are now available for the specific initiatives to support European Research Area
EU CONTRIBUTES TO BOOST AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION IN POOR COUNTRIES

The European Union (EU) has committed €75 million (US$105 million) to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to help poor countries in 13 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Central America boost agricultural production. This is in addition to the €125 million ($170 million) donation it gave in June 2009.

Visit http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/21645/icode/ for the full story.

Europe

Brussels Needs to Rethink GM Policy, Says NIAB
Ian Ashbridge, Farmers Weekly (UK),  July 3, 2009
http://www.fwi.co.uk

Speaking to a conference of international agri-investment funds this week, Tina Barsby, chief executive of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, said that Brussels' policy on GM crops was "outdated and inadequate". Dr Barsby said no GM technology had received EU approval for cultivation in over a decade. "GM technology is demonstrably not inherently dangerous. The EU needs to release the log-jam of production in the pipeline [that it is causing] and review its process-driven regulatory framework which is inadequate and outdated.", Dr Barsby said Brussels veto on rolling out GM culitvars was hamstringing western Europe's ability to produce more food to meet population growth and tackle climate change."[Brussels'] lack of respect for scientific decision making is leading to lack of investment." It was essential that GM technology was adopted as part of a wider effort to improve food production or Europe would be "left in the dust", she said.

Polish Ban On Genetically Modified Food Production 'Illegal'
Polish Market Online, July 17, 2009 http://www.polishmarket.com.pl

Poland has violated its obligation towards the EU in connection with GMO, the European Tribunal of Justice has declared in Luxembourg. Poland, which fighting to become a GMO free-zone had been in dispute with the European Commission over GMOs for years and finally passed a law banning GMO seeds on April 27, 2006.

The regulation prohibited GMO seeds trade, made it impossible to register GMO crop which in consequence blocked GMO cultivation, TVN24 reports.  Under EU regulations, EU member states do not have the power to ban, limit or hinder GMO trade if it is allowed on the European level. The Polish government adopted a policy on GMO food in November 2008. It allows cultivating GMOs only in laboratories and bans GMO trade; it also opposes cultivation of genetically modified foods.
GERMANY'S GM MAIZE BAN UNFOUNDED, SCIENTISTS SAY

Germany's current ban on the cultivation of the genetically modified insect-resistant corn MON810 is "not scientifically grounded", according to the country's Central Commission for Biological Safety (ZKBS). The German Agriculture Ministry, last April, presented new evidences on the potential environmental impact of the insect-resistant maize, specifically six scientific papers describing possible detrimental effects of the MON810-produced Bt protein on non-target arthropods, crustaceans and mollusks. These studies, on which the ban on the GM maize is based, were analyzed by the ZKBS.

"After consideration of all the available scientific information, and according to the precautionary principle, the cultivation of MON810 does not present any risk for the environment," the ZKBS concluded after scrutinizing the studies. According to a report by the GMO compass, the Central Commission found "shortcomings in the experimental set-up" or "marginal scientific quality" in some of the studies.

A similar conclusion was made by researchers from the Joseph Fourier University, Paris-Sud 11 University and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) after analyzing the studies. Agnes Ricroch and colleagues, in a paper published by Transgenic Research, wrote that the German ban "is based on an incomplete list of references, ignores the widely admitted case-by-case approach, and confuses potential hazard and proven risk in the scientific procedure of risk assessment."

For more information, read http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/455.docu.html and http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11248-009-9297-5
Canada and European Communities End WTO Dispute on Genetically Modified Organisms
Jack Cooper, Food Industry Environmental Network
http://www.fien.com

The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, today announced that Canada and the European Communities (EC) have agreed to end a six-year World Trade Organization dispute regarding the approval and marketing of biotechnology products, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Resolving this dispute means improved market access for commercially produced Canadian agricultural GMO products, particularly canola seed.

FRANCE REJECTS EFSA'S OPINION ON GM MAIZE

The European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) GMO Panel has recently released a scientific opinion on the safety and renewal of authorization for continued marketing of the GM maize MON810 in Europe. EFSA concluded that the insect-resistant maize, the only genetically modified crop approved for cultivation in the European Union, "is as safe as its conventional counterpart with respect to potential effects on human and animal health."

However, France has rejected EFSA's opinion, according to a report by the Agence France-Presse (AFP). The country's ecology and agriculture ministries said EFSA had failed to "take into account requests to change the way it evaluated the risk."

In a joint statement, the French ministries pointed out that "the conclusions of the European Council of Environment Ministers must be respected." The Council of Environment Ministers had called on EFSA to change its assessment methods. "EFSA's opinion could not take these assessment methods into account, since they are still being reviewed," the ministries said. France, together with Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Austria and recently Germany, has banned the cultivation of MON810, saying the GM maize poses danger to the environment.

Read the press release (in French) at http://agriculture.gouv.fr/sections/presse5022/communiques/avis-8217-aesa-sur EFSA's scientific opinion is available for download at http://www.efsa.europa.eu/
UK ESTABLISHES NEW GENOME CENTER

Breeding of new crops with increased tolerance to drought, breeding of livestock able to resist emerging exotic diseases and production of antibiotics to fight 'superbugs', are among the studies that will be conducted in a new center established by the British Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The Ł13.5M (US$ 22M) Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) will focus on deciphering the genomes of plants and animals used in agriculture.

Read the press release at http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/releases/2009/090703_new_national_genome_centre_launched.html
GERMAN PARLIAMENTARIANS VOTE AGAINST PERMANENT GM MAIZE BAN

A majority of the members of the German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) rejected the motion by the country's Green Party to vote against the European Union's re-authorization of the genetically modified maize MON810, according to a report by the European Biotech News. A great majority of parliamentarians also voted against the permanent ban of the GM maize and the Establishment of GMO-free zones in Germany. MON810, an insect resistant maize variety developed by Monsanto Company, is the only GM crop approved for cultivation across the EU's 27-nation bloc. Several EU nations, including Austria, Germany, France, Greece, Luxembourg and Hungary, have suspended the cultivation of MON810.

Read the original article at http://www.eurobiotechnews.eu/service/start-page/top-news/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=10268&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=12&cHash=1716e7d4e0

Africa

TANZANIAN FARMERS FIND YIELD POTENTIAL OF GM CROPS MORE IMPORTANT THAN RISKS

Farmers in Tanzania are more interested on the productivity potential of genetically-modified (GM) crops than they are worried about the possible risks associated with their use, according to a study conducted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the University of Leeds. Using disease-resistant cassava as an example, the researchers assessed the understanding and attitudes of local farmers toward GM crops. The farmers identified yield, growth patterns, pest and disease resistance, labor requirements and taste as important qualities of GM crops.

The original article is available at http://www.cgiar.org/newsroom/releases/news.asp?idnews=908
Role of Genetically Modified Crops in Africa

the article written by Dr. Daniel Mataruka of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation recently appeared in the Council for Biotechnology Information website. http://www.whybiotech.com/?p=915#more-915

America

Los Angeles Times Poll: 86% believe GM foods will eventually be accepted
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-standage5-2009jul05,0,7516154.story

Will Genetically Modified foods ever be accepted as potatoes eventually were?

Yes, in time people will accept them. 86%
No, they're dangerous. 14%
SEMBIOSYS AWARDED KEY U.S. PATENT FOR THE PRODUCTION OF INSULIN IN PLANTS

A grant to manufacture insulin at a commercial production scale has been granted by the U.S. Patent Office to SemBioSys Genetics Inc, a Calgary, Alberta-based world leader in manufacturing high-value proteins and oils in plant seeds. The patent entitled Methods for the Production of Insulin in Plants will ensure the exclusivity of the company to commercialize the insulin-production technology in the U.S. and offers competitive advantages to potential partners who wish to supply the expanding diabetes market.

For details, see the press release at: http://micro.newswire.ca/release.cgi?rkey=1707309704&view=36078-0&Start=0

Asia

MALAYSIA: DIALOGUE BETWEEN ISLAMIC SCHOLARS AND SCIENTISTS ON AGRIBIOTECHNOLOGY

An international workshop for Islamic scholars on Islam and Agribiotechnology: Finding a Common Language between Ulama and Scientists was held at University Malaya from 14-15 July 2009. The workshop was organized by Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC), International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), Yayasan Ilmuwan, University Malaya, and COMSTECH. The workshop was attended by ulama and scientists from Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, and Egypt.

The workshop served as a platform to discuss Islam and agribiotechnology. Prominent ulama presented the views of Islam on GM food, the principles of Islam, and making decisions based on Quran, hadith and fundamentals of Ijtihad. The ulama too had an opportunity to learn about GM technology and food. Country reports were also presented on the status and acceptance of GM crops, the regulations and agencies in place to monitor the halal-ness of GM food. All delegates agreed that more dialogues of this nature should be organized, especially for ulama to understand the principles of molecular biology to enable them to make informed decisions on GM food. A set of recommendations on the way forward was drafted and is expected to be finalized and circulated to COMSTECH and national agencies in the Muslim world.

For more on the workshop email Mahaletchumy Arujanan of the Malaysian Biotechnology Centre at maha@bic.my.org

India

India hikes science budget despite slowdown

Despite the economic slowdown India's government will spend 284 billion rupees (US$5.8 billion) on research and development this year, 17% more than last year, according to the budget for 2009–2010 announced on 6 July.

http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090708/full/news.2009.652.html
SHOULD INDIA COMMERCIALIZE GM RICE WITH OR WITHOUT CHINA?

An article on Balancing Productivity and Trade Objectives in a Competing Environment: Should India Commercialize Genetically Modified (GM) Rice with or without China, authored by Guillaume Gruere and colleagues at the Institute of Food Policy Research Institute, World Bank and Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour in France was recently published in the Journal of Agricultural Economics. The authors analyzed the economic effects of introducing GM rice in India with or without China in the presence of labeling and import approval regulations of GM food in GM sensitive countries. The results showed that the welfare gains with GM rice in India would largely exceed any potential export loss, and that the segregation of non-GM rice could help reduce the minor losses. In addition, there is no significant first mover advantage for India or China on GM rice.

The abstract of the report is downloadable and the full paper is available to subscribers at: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/122463385/abstract

China

CHINA DISCUSSES BENEFITS OF GM CROPS WITH MEDIA

"Do GM crops benefit the producer or the consumer?" This was the main concern of communication practitioners during the media workshop held by the Chinese Society of Biotechnology (CSBT) and the China Biotechnology Information Center (ChinaBIC) of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications at Pangu 7 Star Hotel, Beijing on July 9, 2009. More than 20  journalists from trade and general/business media attended the workshop. "Biotechnology Application Prospect and Agricultural Sustainable Development" aimed to set up and strengthen the relationship between public/private sector and key media, and create a good information environment.

For more information on the Chinese agri-biotech industry, contact Prof. Zhang Hongxiang of ISAAA ChinaBic at zhanghx@mail.las.ac.cn
FUTURAGENE, CHINESE FORESTRY INSTITUTE EXTEND EUCALYPTUS COLLABORATION

Israel-based FuturaGene announced that it will extend its collaboration agreement with  China's Research Institute of Tropic Forestry (RITF) which is aimed at the development of improved eucalyptus varieties. The biotechnology company has been working with the Chinese research institute to develop eucalyptus trees with bacterial wilt resistance.

Bacterial wilt disease is caused by the soil bacterium Ralstonia solanacearum. The bacteria invade plants via roots or stem wounds and propagate in stem tissue, resulting in necrosis. Bacterial wilt has become widely dispersed in the major plantation provinces of China, with infection rates reaching as high as 88 percent.

FuturaGene and RITF will share equally the commercialization rights to the resistant varieties in the Chinese domestic market.

Read the media release at http://www.futuragene.com/FGN%20expands%20contract%20with%20RITF%20to%20disease%20solutions.pdf

Australia

LIMITED RELEASE OF GM BARLEY AND WHEAT IN AUSTRALIA

Australia's Office of the Gene Technology Regulator has approved the application submitted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) for the limited release of 27 transgenic wheat and barley lines. The wheat and barley lines have been genetically modified (GM) for enhanced nutrient utilization efficiency. The trial will take place in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) on a maximum area of 1 hectare per year between July 2009 and June 2012. None of the GM materials will be used for either human or animal consumption.

More information is available at http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/publishing.nsf/Content/dir094

News in Science

HERBICIDE DIVERSITY KEEPS RESISTANT WEEDS AWAY

Using different herbicide application strategies might be expensive, but according to researchers at the Purdue University, this approach will significantly reduce the population and density of glyphosate resistant weeds. Bill Johnson and colleagues studied marestail or horseweed, the first weed to develop resistance to glyphosate. Johnson said: "Glyphosate-resistant marestail develops very quickly in a field. Populations reach staggering levels of infestation in about two years after it is first detected. [This] showed that a weed-management system that is solely reliant on glyphosate is starting to break down. However, a system that incorporates other herbicides with glyphosate can be sustainable for quite some time."

The original story is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2009b/090713JohnsonManagement.html
BT CORN POSES NEGLIGIBLE RISK TO WEB BUILDING SPIDERS

Genetically modified corn varieties that produce the insecticidal protein Cry3Bb1 provide an effective way to control corn rootworms (Diabrotica spp.). But concerns have been expressed on the possible negative effects of Cry protein-producing corn varieties on non-target arthropods. A team of researchers from Switzerland evaluated the effect of Cry3Bb1 on the predatory spider Theridion impressum, a common species in European corn fields.

Quantification of Cry3Bb1 in potential prey species collected in Bt corn plots and prey spectrum analysis revealed that T. impressum ingests Cry3Bb1 in the field. Although Cry3Bb1 is ingested by the spider, the scientists found no evidence of toxicity. In the laboratory, the team found no differences in mortality, weight development or offspring production of spiders provided with food containing or not containing Cry3Bb1.

The paper published by the Plant Biotechnology Journal is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2009.00431.x
New DNA cell repair mechanism
http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_09_06_30_en.html&item=Infocentre&artid=11973

A team of international researchers has discovered a new way that DNA repairs itself; it is a process that not only protects the genome but also prevents cancer development. Published in the journal Nature, the findings show how elements from known mechanisms combine with an unrelated second method whose contribution to DNA repair was previously unknown.

Pests could overcome GM cotton toxins

Caterpillars reveal a chink in the armour of transgenic crops.
Heidi Ledford Published online 6 July 2009 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2009.629

BASF PARTNERS WITH COLOGNE UNIVERSITY TO DEVELOP DROUGHT-PROOF CROPS

BASF Plant Science and the Botanical Institute of the University of Cologne announced that they will work together to increase the yield of crops such as soybean, rice and canola, and improve their tolerance to adverse environmental conditions like cold, drought and salinity. BASF and Cologne University will focus on developing crops that make optimum use of carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Certain types of plants, like corn, are able to use more CO2 through an additional metabolic process. The objective of the current research project is to transfer this biochemical mechanism to other plants. Researchers at Cologne University have been successful in creating Arabidopsis plants that produce more biomass by inserting genes that encode for special enzymes. These enzymes ensure that the plant uses more carbon dioxide.

View the media release at http://www.basf.com/group/pressrelease/P-09-145
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